The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

A Specialist’s Perspective: Is Your Leg and Knee Pain Caused by Weak Feet?

Posted by on Friday, June 5th, 2015

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If you were to visit a general practitioner for leg and knee pain, you would likely walk out the door with a prescription for pain medication and a few friendly suggestions, such as “try to take it easy” or “do some basic stretching exercises each morning.” The problem with this approach is that you’re just treating the symptoms and not addressing the biomechanical root of the problem. Family doctors can’t be faulted for this Band-Aid approach to leg and knee pain. They are busy doing damage control on a wide range of issues and aren’t able to specialize in every area of human anatomy. That’s why seeking medical attention from a specialist like sports medicine doctors and podiatrists is important for these kinds of injuries. The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine receives many referrals from doctors whose patients complain of leg and knee problems, which are often traced back to weakness or structural abnormalities in the feet.

knee pain
Note how the entire body alignment shifts when there is a muscular imbalance in the foot.
Image Source: Bodyworxphysio.com.au

Are Your Feet Weak?

Imagine trying to drive a car with flat or bald tires. The entire vehicle could be in tip-top shape, but without robust, healthy tires, you’re not going to make it very far. The same is true of the oft-overlooked feet. Our patients come in with all sorts of complaints — low back pain, shin splints, knee aches, balance problems — but the common culprit is a weakness in the foot. Often, we treat patients with bony bunion protrusions, a painful nerve condition in the ball of the foot called Morton’s Neuroma, swelling and pain in the Achilles tendon, and plantar fasciitis heel pain.

A simple test you can do at home to see if your foot has any structural abnormalities is to put your feet in water and step on a piece of paper. Look at the print. If you only see the heel and toe impressions, then you may have tight, inflexible feet and a high arch. If there is one, long unbroken print, then you may have overly flexible, flat feet.

Another test you can do at home is a balance test, where you stand on one leg, with the other leg bent at a 90-degree angle. If you’re under age 40, you will feel your feet wobbling to compensate, but you should be able to hold this stance for a good 43 seconds. Once you get into your forties, the average dips down to 40 seconds — and 37 seconds in your fifties. Once you reach your sixties, the average is 27 seconds. This task becomes even harder if the study participant closes his or her eyes, with the average score among all age categories dropping to just 10 seconds!

In our office, we’ll look at what your foot naturally does to compensate for the imbalance — if the foot is more likely to roll inward or outward, for example. No foot is truly perfect. We all have our own natural tendencies and abnormalities. The degree to which the foot’s pronation or supination affects an individual’s health, however, is what we must focus upon in our practice. It is important to know that pain persisting for more than a day following strenuous exercise is not normal!

For a third test of foot strength, try lifting your big toe without moving the rest of the toes. Conversely, try lifting your other four toes up, while keeping the big toe planted. If you have trouble controlling the foot muscles in this manner, then you may need help with foot strengthening exercises to add stability up through your legs, knees, hips, and back.

Are Your Shoes to Blame?

Few of us receive education on what type of feet we have, let alone which shoes offer the best support for a particular condition. Here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC, we are happy to counsel you on proper footwear. For instance, we may recommend motion-control shoes for people with extremely flat feet. However, we’ll sway you away from this shoe type if you do not have flat feet, as motion control properties can actually cause injuries, especially if you have a forefoot issue like Morton’s Neuroma. We’ll discuss podiatrist-recommended brands and models with excellent foot support and the possibility of custom 3-D printed orthotics that form to the unique impression of your feet to offer personalized cushioning. Our patients are often surprised at how fast knee pain goes away with a few tweaks to their footwear and a couple weeks of physical therapy exercises.

Addressing Knee and Leg Pain from a Sport’s Medicine Doctor’s Perspective

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine has offices in Westchester and Manhattan for your convenience. When you come in, we’ll ask about your complete medical history, perform a clinical analysis of your feet, watch how you move in the computerized gait analysis lab, test your balance, and offer professional suggestions for fixing the root cause of your pain. We are fully equipped to perform all diagnostic testing, fit you with custom orthotics, and take you through a full range of pain management therapy — from platelet rich plasma and extracorporeal shockwave therapy, through MLS pain lasers and regular physical therapy with trained sports medicine professionals. Contact us to book your appointment.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.